Early in my father’s career, he was working for a firm that wasn’t terribly friendly to the Catholic Faith and way of life. August 15th rolled around (which is a Holy Day of Obligation) and my dad realized he needed to take a bit of time away from the office in order to attend Mass for the Feast of the Assumption.
He explained to his boss—who wasn’t particularly a man of faith—that he needed to attend Mass for the Assumption. The reply came back: “And which assumption is that?” For him, all the truths of the faith and the teaching of the Church were mere assumptions (and probably incorrect ones at that).
What do we as Catholics celebrate on this great Feast of the Assumption? For us, it is not a mere “assumption” of something that didn’t really happen or doesn’t really matter. For us it is an important dogma or teaching of the Church that was actually defined only recently—remembering the two-thousand year old history of the Church—in 1950.
The Blessed Virgin Mary (Our Mother) was taken up into Heaven, body and soul, upon the end of her life here on earth.
Though defined as official Church teaching in the twentieth century, it is simply an affirmation of a long tradition that began in the time of the Apostles. Our Lady received “special treatment” given who she is—the Mother of God. Her flesh did not rot in a grave like is the natural course of things. Having held within her womb God Incarnate, she is too pure, too holy, too lovable for such corruption of the flesh. Her Son wanted her by His side in heaven, interceding on our behalf.
Christ’s body was resurrected (as He predicted). His Mother’s body was taken into heaven, not by her own power, but by the power of God.
Every Sunday and feast day, we as a Church recite the Nicene Creed after the homily. We conclude our statement of faith with these words:
I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen.
When we die, our body and soul separate: the soul goes before the judgment seat of God while the body is buried. “Remember thou art dust and to dust thou shall return.” However, the grave is not the body’s final destination. It’s not often spoken about, but we as Catholic believe our bodies will be resurrected! We look forward to the world to come, to eternal paradise beholding the face of God. And we will enjoy face-to-face friendship with God with our own physical bodies. Our Lady’s body is already in Heaven and ours can be there one day, too!
How then can we celebrate this great truth of Our Faith? First and foremost, we can receive in our body, the Body and Blood of Christ at Mass for this feast. The Church obliges us to attend Mass on this day, pointing to the importance of the body and of Our Lady, Mother of the Body of Christ.
We could also pray the Rosary, perhaps the Glorious Mysteries. The fourth Glorious Mystery is the Assumption of Our Lady into Heaven. How fitting to take a few minutes to contemplate this mystery in the Rosary on the day we celebrate it.
Another idea is to take a few minutes on some spiritual reading about Our Lady. There are numerous books and articles written about her and about devotion to her. Perhaps one that could help is a semi-fictionalized account of her life that reads like a novel, while remaining faithful to the Gospels: The Maiden of Nazareth by Javier Suarez-Guanes. Another more challenging, yet rewarding work is soon-to-be St. John Henry Newman’s Mystical Rose. Two more titles that come to mind by saints are Saint and Doctor of the Church Alphonsus Liguori’s The Glories of Mary and soon-to-be Blessed Fulton Sheen’s The World’s First Love.This year, let’s make the Feast of the Assumption a special day of renewed devotion to Our Lord and His Mother. Let’s give our whole selves, body and soul, to God confident in the life of the world to come. We can have solid faith in that and need not make any assumptions!